BCS Championship 2013 Report Card: Grading Alabama and Notre Dame
The 2013 BCS National Championship has come to an end with the Alabama Crimson Tide knocking off the Notre Dame Fighting Irish by a score of 42-14. Needless to say, the game did not live up to the expectations that everybody had going in.
However, there are grades that need to be handed down. Some units surprised us all, and not necessarily in a good way. This was an ugly game from the start and won't go down in college football history for anything positive, as many thought it would.
Alabama has now won yet another national championship and Notre Dame is flying back to South Bend wondering how to improve on its premature success.
With another college football season officially in the books, let's hand out the report-card grades for each unit that participated in the 2013 national championship.
Notre Dame Quarterback
What Went Right: Everett Golson did end up scoring Notre Dame's only rushing touchdown of the game on a read-option play in the third quarter. He also passed for a touchdown in the fourth quarter in garbage time. Golson was careful with the football, usually only putting the ball where his receiver had a chance to catch it. He did end up throwing an interception, but it did come on a tipped pass and took a tremendous diving catch by an Alabama defender.
What Went Wrong: Golson wasn't able to use his legs much, which may in fact have been a coaching issue (we'll get to that later). Regardless of whether the interception was Golson's fault or not, he did force the ball into tight coverage to allow the ball to get picked off. The Irish signal-caller was supposed to be the playmaker in this game, but came up short time and time again down the stretch.
What Went Right: Much like last year’s national championship victory, A.J. McCarron simply shredded the opposing defense. He carefully picked when to take advantage of the man coverage and was virtually playing catch with his Crimson Tide wide receivers. He didn't make any bad decisions with the football and may have actually completed nearly 100 percent of his passes if his receivers didn't drop many balls in the first half. Once again, it was a flawless performance from the Alabama quarterback.
What Went Wrong: If you can find something that went wrong for McCarron in this game, please let me know. He put nearly every pass right on the numbers, made the right decision with the ball every time and didn't get a speck of dirt on his uniform. When you add that to the fact he is dating Miss Alabama, I would say life is great for McCarron at this point.
Notre Dame Offense
What Went Right: Besides the occasional bright spots from Golson, there wasn't much that went right for Notre Dame's offense. The ground game was a non-factor throughout the entire matchup and the passing game didn't produce much, either. There were a couple of big plays from wide receivers DaVaris Daniels and T.J. Jones, but not nearly enough consistency to make a difference in this matchup.
What Went Wrong: There weren't an insane amount of turnovers on the Notre Dame side, but that was just about the only thing that went right for this unit. The team couldn't develop any type of rhythm, the running game was given up on and the receivers could really only get open for little five-yard dump passes down the field on a consistent basis. We knew the Alabama defense was great, but the Notre Dame offense didn't help matters with its performance.
What Went Right: Just about everything. Eddie Lacy showed why he is a top prospect at the running back position in the 2013 draft, simply running like a man-child with the ball in his hands. The receivers burned the secondary with many plays that produced 20-plus yards per pop. The offensive line also did a terrific job of keeping the pocket clean. Overall, it was a crisp performance and Tide fans couldn’t have asked for much more.
What Went Wrong: If we are going to nitpick, Alabama did have a bunch of dropped passes throughout the game.
Notre Dame Defense
What Went Right: There were no significant injuries? While that is always a good thing to consider, it is really about the only thing that went without issue. The Irish defense either got on the wrong plane to South Florida or just wasn't prepared for what it was about to see against Alabama.
What Went Wrong: When the Crimson Tide offense receives the grade it did, you know that the Notre Dame defense didn't do such a great job. The front seven wasn't as dominant as we thought it was going to be, the coverage was too concerned about getting beat deep and there seemed to be at least one missed tackle on each play. This was by far the worst defensive performance of the Irish this season.
What Went Right: The speed of this Alabama defense really showed. No matter who had the ball for the Irish, there was a group of defenders around the ball-carrier. The few times Notre Dame tried to run the ball, it was stuffed with ease. The pass coverage was also terrific, limiting the big plays and yards after the catch. When you hold an offense to only 302 total yards and 14 points, I think it is safe to say that you had yourself a hell of a night.
What Went Wrong: I really tried to find something to complain about, but what more can you ask for from this unit? The talented Irish running game was kept in check to the point the ND coaching staff decided to, more or less, abandon it. The Alabama secondary blanketed the Notre Dame receivers and the front seven didn't allow Golson to do much with his legs. It was a typical Alabama defensive performance and deserves a high grade.
Notre Dame Special Teams
What Went Wrong: Freshman Davonte' Neal fumbled a punt that nearly gave Alabama the ball back, and he later fielded a punt inside the 5-yard line, giving his offense horrible field position. The youth really showed when it came to the young return man.
Alabama Special Teams
What Went Right: Jeremy Shelley made all six of his extra point attempts and Cody Mandell pinned two of his three punts inside the 20-yard line. Of course, some of the help came from the Notre Dame punt returner.
What Went Wrong: Overall, special teams wasn't really much needed in this Alabama victory. And while that may be the case, there were still no crucial mistakes in this department, stifling any potential comeback attempts from Notre Dame.
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly
What Went Right: If you watched the game, you would know that almost nothing went right for Notre Dame. One positive is that Brian Kelly did pick up national championship experience and likely found his full-time starting quarterback for next season in Everett Golson. It was going to be tough to knock off a veteran coach such as Nick Saban, but with this experience under his belt, you can guarantee it will make him a better coach heading into next year.
What Went Wrong: Maybe Notre Dame didn't watch much Alabama football, but cornerback Dee Milliner is arguably the best cornerback prospect in the country. Why would you continue to ask a young starter to throw in his direction?
I also didn't understand in pretty much abandoning the run game and putting the entire load on Golson to carry the offense. It also may have helped if the coaching staff tried to get more out of Golson and his dual-threat abilities by moving the pocket more than it did. Notre Dame did score on a read-option play, which is something that should have been used more in the first half.
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban
What Went Right: You know when Nick Saban has a month to prepare, there likely isn't going to be much that doesn't go his way. His team played his style of football and limited the mistakes on both sides of the ball. Saban did a wonderful job of keeping the Irish defense on its toes by mixing in the play-action pass with the run. He also showed Golson multiple looks on D, confusing the first-year starter and limiting his overall production. Saban has now won four national championships, and joins elite college football company.
What Went Wrong: Saban will complain that his team allowed two touchdowns or that his team had four penalties. Whatever he says, don't buy into it—Saban coached a terrific game and the results on the scoreboard prove it all.